Perfect Connection

Mike Bruesewitz (Siker/13)

Senior forward Mike Bruesewitz will never be a 20-point scorer for the Wisconsin basketball team, but the Minnesota native has provided all the little things that have kept the Badgers in the thick of the conference race with seven games to go.

MINNEAPOLIS - It will be forever known as ‘the shot' in the history of the Kohl Center and Ben Brust will always be known as the hero.

It's well known by now that with Wisconsin down three with 2.4 seconds left against No.3 Michigan, Brust drained a 3-point attempt a few steps past halfcourt to extend the instant classic. Wisconsin won 65-62 to push its winning streak to three games, sent the students streaming on to the court and putting Brust on their shoulders.

But to Brust, his place in Wisconsin basketball history would never have happened if it wasn't for senior forward Mike Bruesewitz delivering him the perfect inbounds pass.

"That pass," said Brust, "was right on the money."

Bruesewitz joked that he has been told he's the ‘ugliest player in the Big Ten' according to Twitter, but the energy and plays he provides to No.20 Wisconsin (17-7, 8-3 Big Ten) is a thing of beauty.

When the team watched game clips Tuesday, UW coach Bo Ryan showed one hustle play where Bruesewitz blocked out his player, got a rebound by tipping it to himself and kept the play alive before falling out of bounds. Apparently there was little to no reaction in the room.

"Nobody is surprised because they've see him do that stuff before," said assistant coach Lamont Paris. "People try to emulate him when he's doing that. It's vital to his game. It makes him a good player. It makes him who he is. He doesn't have to score 20 points to be a good player for us. He just has to bring energy for us.

"He doesn't know how to play any other way. It's contagious. It's infectious."

Paris meant that Bruesewitz's play raises the performance of his teammates, but in essence it also raises his own. After finishing the first half with no points against the Wolverines, Bruesewitz scored all five of his points in crunch time to go along with eight rebounds.

And when his team needed him to deliver the perfect pass to set up a game-winning try, Bruesewitz simply went back to what he's trained himself to do countless times in practice.

"(Practicing that play has) done a good job of preparing us," said Bruesewitz. "I knew where I wanted to go with the ball."

Court vision has always been a strength for Bruesewitz, dating back before he was the Minnesota AP Player of the Year as a high school senior in St. Paul. He credits that awareness to his time playing hockey as a youth until he was in eighth grade.

With the faster pace of hockey, Bruesewitz was forced to quickly recognize angles and passing lane at twice the speed than he does now on the basketball court.

"People always told me the sign of a great player is making guys better around me," said Bruesewitz. "I've always been a pretty good big man passing out of the post because I always got double teamed a lot when I was younger."

Saying his main focus for his team is to bring energy and be a spark, his vision has helped Bruesewitz post career-best averages of 7.0 points and 5.2 rebounds per game entering in tonight's conference matchup against his home-state Minnesota (17-7, 5-6 Big Ten) at Williams Arena.

He's been even better the last four games, averaging 6.5 points and 6.5 rebounds.

"He's been one of our most consistent players," said Paris. "That doesn't have to do with points, rebounds or any statistical stuff. His approach to the game and what he gives on the floor has been as consistent as anybody we've had this year, and it's paved the way for other guys to become more consistent as players."

Considering everything he's had to go through this season, Bruesewitz may be Wisconsin's poster child for perseverance.

Not only did Bruesewitz miss two games after suffering a concussion in practice, he missed a month of practice prior to the season after he sustained a leg laceration on Oct. 9; an injury so severe it required emergency surgery that same day. He didn't miss any game time coming off that injury.

Not bad for a player who asked Ryan on that October day if he would ever be able to play basketball again.

"I love playing basketball," said Bruesewitz, "and feel pretty fortunate that I can do it at a high level."

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